American University
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Environmental justice communities' participation and bureaucrats' involvement efforts in traditional participation and collaborative processes

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posted on 2023-08-04, 21:50 authored by Mei Jen Hung

This dissertation examines environmental justice communities' participation and bureaucrats' efforts to involve these communities. The literature suggests that bureaucrats who favor control and technical rationality are usually in conflict with the idea of citizen participation. The literature on participation has neglected the role of bureaucrats in citizen participation. This dissertation uses case studies, survey, and interviews to examine bureaucrats' attitudes, behaviors, and motivations in involving communities in both traditional participation and collaborative processes. Twenty-one traditional participation cases and nineteen collaborative cases are examined. In the former, communities have shown strong motivation to participate; however, bureaucrats' implementation of participation has been problematic. Communities were dissatisfied with their participation and bureaucrats' failures to implement participation increased distrust. Some explanations of bureaucrats' failures are lack of respect, fear of too much participation, and bureaucratic slack. In most collaborative case studies, bureaucrats brought in expertise, resources, and built trust in government; however, their efforts may have resulted from the fear of lawsuits or complaints. In addition, bureaucrats excluded communities from the core structure of collaborative efforts in about half of the cases. They were concerned about efficiency and about their agency's reputation, and doubted communities' ability to participate. Dispute resolution cases show that bureaucrats can give communities leverage in negotiation with facility owners or developers. A survey of government employees involved in environmental justice efforts and twelve interviews are conducted to complement the case studies and test some of the hypothesis developed based on the case studies and the literature. The survey results show lack of education and resources and distrust are the major obstacles to participation. The results also show that political leadership is critical in bureaucrats' environmental justice efforts. Increasing workforce diversity would assist future efforts to address environmental justice. The survey results are exploratory. The response rate is not high and nonresponse bias needs to be considered. This dissertation provides some insights to bureaucrats' behaviors in encouraging citizen participation and recommends improving bureaucrats' understanding of communities and appreciation of local knowledge, developing trust and increasing workforce diversity.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2009.


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